Home LIFESTYLE Style News “I’m Not Going to Just Roll Over”: Behind the Scenes, After Another Week in the Spotlight, Michael Cohen Oscillates Between Fighting Back and Frustration

“I’m Not Going to Just Roll Over”: Behind the Scenes, After Another Week in the Spotlight, Michael Cohen Oscillates Between Fighting Back and Frustration

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The rain mostly held off in Philadelphia on Sunday, where Michael Cohen watched his daughter receive her college diploma alongside the crush of parents snapping photos and sniffling and holding up signs for their graduating kids. Cohen, who was raided by federal agents last month as part of an investigation into his payoff of Stormy Daniels, was being crushed on another front as he sat in the crowd, as he had been all week. The Wall Street Journal had published a report claiming that Cohen had used his proximity to the president as a selling point to woo major companies—to varying degrees of success. Last week, it had been revealed that a handful of major companies, including AT&T, Novartis, and Korea Aerospace Industries, had paid Cohen staggering sums of money in the early months of the Trump administration for his expertise. The Journal reported on Sunday that he had pitched Uber his services, reminding the company that he was “the president’s lawyer.” Cohen told the paper in a statement that the story had “falsehoods and gross inaccuracies” written “in the hopes of maligning me for sensationalistic purposes,” and that “the truth will prevail and will ultimately be proven in court and not by pundits.”

Cohen’s history pitching Uber is actually more complex—and it dates back before Trump even announced his candidacy. In March 2015, Cohen sent an e-mail to Ari Emanuel, the co-C.E.O. of William Morris Endeavor and an early investor in Uber, asking him to make a connection with executives at the company. The two didn’t have a relationship, but they shared a client. Emanuel had represented Trump during The Apprentice years, and purchased the Miss Universe pageant from him in 2015. In a formal, pitch-like e-mail to Emanuel, Cohen laid out some thoughts about why he could be an asset to Uber, noting that he had long owned yellow-taxicab medallions and felt he had a strategy that could benefit the $70 billion company greatly, according to two people familiar with the exchange. Emanuel politely forwarded the e-mail to Uber co-founder Travis Kalanick with a brief “Are you interested?” note at the top of Cohen’s missive. Kalanick quickly responded that he wasn’t (along with expressing well-wishes to Emanuel). A few months later, in June, Trump rode the gilded elevators in Trump Tower down to the marble lobby to announce his candidacy. (Disclosure: I am represented by W.M.E., but no one from W.M.E. was involved in this story.)

But Cohen remained interested. He got in touch with the company again last fall after Uber posted a public job listing for a head of government affairs position in Washington, according to two people familiar with the situation. Cohen had heard about the opening from an executive recruiter, according to one person. He was one of about 100 people to apply for the job, another person said. Kalanick, at that point, had left Uber months earlier, as had a number of top executives, after months of chaos within the company. Cohen again felt that he could provide expertise, particularly to the new leadership that had taken over after Kalanick was ousted following a series of embarrassing scandals and board machinations. Nevertheless, new C.E.O. Dara Khosrowshahi, declined to hire him, at which point Cohen pitched his consulting services, according to these people. The company turned down his advice.

The bombshell news that Cohen had been paid well into the six figures by major companies since Trump’s election came to light last week, when Michael Avenatti, an attorney representing Daniels in a civil suit over a non-disclosure agreement Cohen facilitated before the election in order to silence her allegations of an affair with Trump, tweeted out a seven-page document detailing the payments. In the days following, AT&T copped to paying Cohen’s shell company $600,000 for “insights” into President Trump—an arrangement it called a “big mistake” last week, before announcing that its top Washington lobbyist would be leaving the company. On Wednesday, Novartis, which agreed to pay Cohen $100,000 a month for a year at the beginning of 2017, issued a statement announcing that its top lawyer was retiring as a result of the payments. Another firm, Columbus Nova, which paid Cohen $500,000 for consulting services, has been linked to Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg. (The company said in a statement that reports claiming that “Vekselberg used Columbus Nova as a conduit for payments to Michael Cohen are false.”)

Cohen, according to two people familiar with his thinking, has vacillated between fuming over Avenatti’s involvement in the matter and feeling browbeaten by the barrage of headlines. “Isn’t he supposed to be representing a porn star?” one person said in reaction to the news, soon after Avenatti tweeted out the document. In the last week, he has told friends that he is being attacked, and his family is being made to suffer, all because investigators are trying to get to the president. “I’m not going to just roll over,” he has told friends, spending hours each day with his attorneys in order to comb through documents the government has returned to them from their raids last month.

As his instinct to fight kicked into overdrive last week, so too has the unyielding cable-news mania weighed on him. The paparazzi, who had finally begun to leave him and his family alone after the raid, once again started lingering outside of his hotel on Park Avenue. They followed him on his way to his lawyers’ office, and waited for him once he came outside. Friends continued to tell him that, at this point, no one in Washington was looking out for him, so he had to be the one to look out for himself and his family. As he watched the news unfold in his hotel room in Philadelphia over the weekend, he evidenced some exasperation. He has confided in friends, “I just can’t take this anymore.”

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